Foods That Boost Mood
Monday, April 18, 2022

By Charlotte Hargrave, RD

Have you ever thought about how food might have a correlation with our mood? Our food choices contribute to mood, and we often might notice how certain foods affect our moods. According to a review from the International Society of Nutritional Psychiatry, focusing on whole foods, avoiding processed foods and incorporating higher intake of fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, lean meats, legumes and nuts are beneficial for our mental health.

 In fact, many foods that can boost one’s mental health are already part of a healthy diet:

  • Omega-3 fats play a vital role in behavioral function and mood. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fats come from walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Flaxseeds can be found already ground or whole. Flaxseeds and chia seeds can easily be added to hot cereal, smoothies, yogurt or salads. The best sources of omega-3 fats are found in marine sources like cold water fatty fish. Some examples include salmon, sardines, herring, albacore tuna and mackerel.
  • Prebiotics and probiotics can help reduce inflammation and help with mood regulation. Probiotics can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented sauerkraut and kombucha. Be sure to check that the ingredient list contains live and active cultures. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as garlic, onion, asparagus, bananas, whole wheat and sweet potatoes. Prebiotics and probiotics have also sparked numerous research on the relationship between gut and brain health. Gut health has been thought to have a correlation between inflammation and mood. If we have poor gut health, it can lead to inflammation within our body. In turn, inflammation has been shown to be connected with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
  • Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is often found in Indian cuisine. Turmeric can help decrease inflammation and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine which are chemicals in your brain that help regulate mood. It can be added to roasted veggies, soups, rice, smoothies, hot cereal and teas.
  • Foods high in folate, especially leafy greens can help improve mood. Folate not only helps energy production in the brain but also aids in the production of our bodies DNA and RNA. Folate can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, whole grains, beans and orange and grapefruit juices.

Overall, eating a healthy and balanced diet can help improve mood and mental health. In addition to eating a healthy and balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep are imperative for mental health. If you need any additional support in any of these areas, reaching out to your healthcare provider, a Registered Dietitian or mental health professional can be beneficial.

Clinical Nutrition: Beyond Food and Mood, Today's Dietitian Magazine
Functional Foods & Cognitive Health, Today's Dietitian Magazine
NAMI Ask the Expert: Eating for Better Mental Health, NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Charlotte Hargrave is a registered dietitian at the Center for Health and Fitness. For more information visit,